Itinerant Indian monk seeks eight months to walk to court

Ahmedabad (India) (AFP) - An itinerant Jain monk ordered to appear in court in the Indian city of Ahmedabad has said he needs eight months to get there because his strict faith prevents him from using any form of transport.

Acharya Kirti Yashurishwarji Maharaj is currently in the eastern city of Kolkata, about 2,200 kilometres (1,400 miles) from Ahmedabad -- a journey the 60-year-old says he will only undertake on foot.

But a court rejected his request for the lengthy journey and told him to appear in court next month.

Maharaj faces charges of promoting Bal Diksha -- the recruitment of children into the Jain monastic order -- by publishing forged government documents endorsing the practice.

The charge was filed by Jashmin Shah, a local Jain community leader who has fought a campaign against Bal Diksha.

Shah's lawyer Nitin Gandhi told AFP the court had ruled out an eight-month delay.

"The court has issued a fresh bailable warrant against the monk and directed him to appear before court by November 4," Gandhi said on Wednesday.

Jainism is an ancient Indian religion whose followers live a spartan lifestyle according to strict non-violent principles.

Jain monks renounce all worldly goods and even sweep the floor in front of them and cover their mouths with their hands as they walk to avoid stepping on or swallowing insects.

They live an itinerant life, meaning Maharaj has no fixed address although he regularly visits Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat, home to many Jain holy sites.

Hindu-majority India is home to around four million Jains, many of whom live in Gujarat and neighbouring Rajasthan.